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Baton Rouge: New bill bans use of social media by sex-offenders

Social media is all the rage these days with Facebook making its initial public offering, which dominated much of the press and online media over the weekend, however now participating on social media sites may be illegal for some Louisiana citizens. House Bill 620 was passed by the House last week in a 93-0 vote and is expected to be signed into law by Louisiana State Governor, Bobby Jindal.

Last year, a more comprehensive bill that was backed by the governor was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court Judge who said the law was too broad in scope in that it banned sex-offenders and those convicted of a sex crime from accessing the internet in general, including news, government, sports and jobs information websites. Instead of appealing that ruling, the state chose to re-write the law.

The new bill aims to prohibit "intentional use" of social networking sites by a registered sex offender who has been specifically convicted of sex crimes involving a minor, plus four other sex crimes convictions; including pornography depicting a juvenile, indecent behavior with a minor, online solicitation of a juvenile and video voyeurism. The consequences of a conviction in violation of the ban are steep.

The maximum fine for a violation of the ban is $10,000 in addition of up to 10 years in prison. A second offense in violation of the ban doubles the fines and prison sentence.

Another bill, House Bill 220, approved earlier by the Senate Judiciary C Committee toughens the penalties for the reckless firing of a firearm near a parade route to a maximum15 year prison sentence. The minimum would stay at five years, of which the first three years must be served without suspension.

The same panel also approved House Bill 222, which allows a prosecutor to use a misdemeanor conviction on a gun charge in violation of a local ordinance as a means to charge an offender with a felony for a second violation. A felony conviction carries much stiffer penalties than misdemeanor charges making it that much more imperative anyone accused of a crime to seek an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure his or her rights are protected at every step. All three bills are headed to the full Senate for final debate.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Lawmakers try again to block sex-offenders from social network websites," Ed Anderson, May 15, 2012

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